IOWA — Diana Lang was adopted at birth. It was the 1960s and her parents never made any secret about the way she and her brother came into their family. But both children had a lot of questions and started searching for their birth families as adults.
“All across the country you get a totally different birth certificate and I didn’t have a copy of my original birth certificate,” Lang explains, “it was sealed in the state of Colorado.” Her birth certificate did show the hospital where she was born, and she knew her birth mother’s last name. “I actually sent a letter to the hospital and asked for the medical records for Baby Girl Anderson born on my date of birth, and miraculously they sent them to me.”
Lang hired a private investigator who quickly found members of her birth family. The first contact was with her birth mother. “She told the intermediary, this was sealed, she never should have been able to contact me.”
The rejection hit her hard, but Lang says it was hardest years later when her mother was dying of cancer. The two would never meet, but Lang connected with her birth father in 1993. She said, “He always had peace about placing me for adoption because he was placed for adoption at birth also. He told me, I knew you’d be fine because he had such a wonderful life and parents and siblings.”
Lang says reaching out to her birth family filled her with fear of rejection. It’s an emotion she says she still carries with her today, and one that’s common for adoptees. “The research shows there is still a lot of stigmatization surrounding adoption,” she says. And when Lang talks about research she’s not talking about what she’s read – she’s talking about what she’s written. She has both a Masters and PhD from Iowa State and adoption is the focus of her studies. “Every single parent said they wished there were more conversations and that it was less stigmatized. Even kids were telling me ‘I wish more people knew about adoption…it’s a good thing.’”
Lang didn’t really need to do research to know how they felt. She’s not only an adoptee, she’s also an adoptive mother. In 2001 she and her husband had an eight-year-old son and were hoping to adopt their next child. A random encounter at the hospital where Lang worked made it happen. “The doctor called and said a baby was born. It was a girl. I’m like…eeeeks….I think this is my baby!” she remembers with a laugh. Less than 24 hours later, she took her daughter home.
The experience of becoming a mother through both biology and adoption added another layer to Lang’s life story. She says the overwhelming emotion she feels is gratitude for the people who have helped write her adoption story – her birth family, her adoptive family and her children. It’s one of the reasons she created the nonprofit Iowans for Adoption: https://www.iowansforadoption.org/